Pelham Public Library
The original Pelham Public Library building is
located on Main Street
and currently houses the Pelham Historical Society.
Pelham Library was built and dedicated in 1896, the same year that Boston's Public Library
was completed. Both institutions offered to lend books to the public at no charge
and were called "Free" Libraries, symbolizing a town's commitment to education
and the betterment of its citizens.
~Pelham Free Public Library circa 1903~
The large tree in front of the Library was
brought down by the hurricane of 1938.
Note the dirt road and the horse sheds just behind the Library.
The granite posts were used to tie up a visitors horse
and remain today as a reminder of simpler times.
In March, 1892,
the town voted to establish a Public Library. The original Library was located in
the Town Hall (on the parcel of land where the present Fire Department is located).
The Library was dedicated on January 17, 1893.
The Library grew rapidly and was soon in need
of larger quarters. A special Town Meeting was called in April, 1895 which approved
the sum of $4,000.00 to construct a new library building. The Town stipulated that
the building contain a memorial room to honor the Pelham men who fought in the Civil War.
By a deed dated November 23, 1896, Frank M.
Woodbury and his wife, Zena Belle Woodbury, donated the tract of land in Pelham Center on
which the Library building was constructed. The deed places a condition on the
transfer of the land:
"The condition of this deed being that it
shall be forever used and occupied by said Town of Pelham for a library and memorial
building or for some education purpose, and upon neglect of said Town to use it for this
purpose for the space of two years in succession, said premises shall revert to me or my
heirs and assigns and further, said Town of Pelham shall erect and forever maintain a
suitable fence between said premises and other land of mine which it adjoins."
Work was commenced in October 1895 and was
completed in 1896. John M. Woods, then of Somerville, Massachusetts, a native of
Pelham and a veteran of the Civil War, donated the wood paneling that today adorns the
walls in the memorial room. Other significant gifts were received from Charles
Wheeler and William B. Thom, both Civil War veterans from Pelham. Marble plaques
were engraved with the names of Pelham's veterans and mounted on the walls where they hang
today. One of the first major gifts to the Library was an ornate Victorian
grandfather clock which has steadily marked the hours for more than a century. The
clock still stands in the Library's main room and bears a gold leaf dedication:
"Presented to Pelham Public Library by Mrs. Eli J. Whittemore in memory of her
Father, David Hamblet - 1896".
At the annual March meeting of the town held at the Town Hall, March 8, 1892, it was voted
to establish a Free Public Library, and a Board of Trustees consisting of three persons
were elected to take charge of the same. On assuming their duties, they voted to
annually publish a printed report at the end of each year, and show just what progress the
library was making. In accordance with that vote the trustees take pleasure in
submitting their first report. We think the library has got a good start and is very
well patronized considering the short time it has been opened to the public. The
16th of March we issued printed circulars soliciting subscriptions of money and books to
aid the library. To those who responded so generously, we, in behalf of the
citizens of Pelham, return our hearty thanks, and we trust they may see the library
enlarge from the 500 volumes we now have up to many thousands and become the pride of
every citizen of Pelham.
We hope the town will vote a liberal appropriation for the ensuing year and give it a
generous support. With a generous appropriation and the substantial aid which can be
rendered by our young people we can bring our number of volumes from 500 up to 1500 by the
time the next annual meeting comes around.
We sincerely thank the young people who have by giving
entertainments so substantially aided this library, and hope they may realize some return
for their labor by patronizing the library.
GEORGE H. CURRIER,
GEO. S. BUTLER,
FRANK M. WOODBURY,
Of the Committee chosen by the
Town at a Special Meeting held April 9, 1895, for the purpose of Erecting a Memorial and
The committee chosen at this meeting consisted of the following citizens:
Charles W. Hobbs, George S. Butler,
Frank M. Woodbury, Frank H. Hillman, William G. Butler, George H. Currier, Daniel M.
Webster and Augustus Berry.
The committee voted to locate the Library
and Memorial Building on land given by Frank M. Woodbury, between the First Congregational
Church and the residence formerly owned by John Woodbury. Voted that the building
should be of brick and granite and several plans were considered. A majority of the
committee favored the plan submitted by Stickney & Austin, architects of Lowell, and
it was voted to adopt their plan, and specifications were accordingly drawn up and sealed
proposals to build the same were called for. The proposals were opened October 1st.
There were five proposals. George M. Cole & Co., of Lawrence, were the
lowest bidders but all were thought to be too high. A subsequent meeting was held
and George M. Cole & Co. were requested to be present and state wherein they thought
the building plans and specifications could be cut down so as to come within the money at
the disposal of the committee.
The committee adopted some of their
suggestions and a contract was finally made with George M. Cole & Co., of Lawrence,
Mass., to build a stone and brick building, the contract price being $5,075.00. This
did not include a finished building in all respects, there being some few things mentioned
in the specifications which have to be furnished by the town.
The town at its special meeting
authorized the selectmen to borrow $4,000, which they have done. Generous
contributions have been received from people who have gone from Pelham but are still
interested in its welfare.
The amount of money at the disposal
of the committee is as follows:
Town of Pelham
Donations as per treasurer's
which has been turned over to the town.
Other contributions have been
pledged to the amount of $950. This will bring the money at the disposal of the
committee up to Feb. 15th, 1896 to about $6,000; $2390 has been paid towards the building,
leaving $3610 due when the building is completed. The committee think they will be
able to procure enough more money from interested parties outside of the town to fully
complete the building satisfactory to the town.
GEORGE S. BUTLER
Secretary Building Committee
Miss Mary Hobbs ("Aunt Molly") reading
in the Library's main room.
As Pelham's first Librarian,
appointed before the new Library existed, Mary Hobbs, "Aunt Molly" to all who
knew her, served from 1892 to 1955. She was held in high esteem by adults and
beloved by all the children who came to listen to her stories. She was a descendent
of Pelham's first minister. The Gage Chair has been passed down through at least six
generations of the Hobbs family before it was willed to the Pelham Public Library.
Two of its mates were left to the granddaughter of John Gage of Missouri and to Mrs. Clara
Cutter Jack of Pelham, New Hampshire. These ornate chairs were of unusually fine
quality when Mrs. Phebe Frye Gage brought them to Pelham around 1738, a time when most of
Pelham's homes contained simple, handmade furniture. These treasures are about 260
Aunt Molly had a good selection
of children's books and used to read stories aloud to children. She was very family
oriented and had a sweet disposition.
To the Trustees of the Pelham Free Public Library:
GENTLEMEN - The following report is respectfully submitted:
|Number of volumes in the library.......................
|Number of library cards issued to date.............
|Number of books delivered to date...................
|Amount received in fines....................................
MARY E. HOBBS,
First report of Pelham Free Public
Library seen in Annual Town Report, 1893.
Mary Hobbs and the Gage Chair
Sample of books in the library during 1896
Excerpt from the Lowell Saturday Mail, December 5, 1896:
The Town of Pelham, N. H....a few months late in completing its
public library building to have the dedicatory exercises at a more favorable season of the
year, nevertheless carried out the program as arranged Wednesday with as much interest and
enthusiasm as though it had been midsummer...
It is a modest, but conspicuous
building, of tasteful design. It is of brick with the front entrance in the center,
and reached by neat steps of cut granite. On entering the vestibule directly to the
right , is the room for the use of the town officers, connected with which is an apartment
which holds the safe containing the town records, which are now required by law to be kept
in fire proof repositories.
Passing through the vestibule the
delivery room is reached. On the left is the memorial room, which is a thing of
beauty. It runs the entire depth of the building, and is lighted on three sides.
The walls and ceiling are tastefully frescoed, the floor as are all the floors in
the building, is a hard wood. But the standing woodwork is a decided novelty, for
this latitude. It is of Southern hazel, highly finished, presenting a dark, rich
appearance, that is very attractive.
An important and appropriate feature
of the room is the collection of marble tablets on the walls, containing in gilt the names
of all residents of the town who have served in the wars from Queen Ann's time until the
Another conspicuous feature of the
memorial room is an elegant floor clock, seven feet tall, the gift of Mrs. Eli J.
Whittemore in memory of her father, David Hamblett...
The closing exercises of the day,
which formed a most enjoyable and much appreciated feature, was the dinner served in the
Town Hall which was prepared and served by the ladies. There was enough for
everybody, and at the conclusion of the repast, the company dispersed without the usual
Damage caused by 1938 hurricane in front of library
New Pelham Public Library located on the Village Green
and photos were taken from "Reflections, A Pictorial History Of Pelham, New Hampshire
1746 - 1996", Published by The Pelham 250th Anniversary Committee, copyright 1998;
and "Pelham, New Hampshire 250th Anniversary Celebration 1746 - 1996 Souvenir Program
Book", Published by The Pelham 250th Anniversary Committee.
All information on
this page are the sole property of Pelham Historical Society
and cannot be duplicated without written permission.